China protests assault on Chinese garment factory in Myanmar by local workers

YANGON - The Chinese embassy in Myanmar has lodged a protest with the Myanmar authorities following an assault by striking workers on a Chinese-invested garment factory, in the latest major security incident linked to Chinese investment in Myanmar.

The diplomatic protest came a day after hundreds of striking workers attacked the factory in Yangon, detaining seven Chinese staff members and taking away their belongings, Xinhua news agency reported on Friday (Feb 24).

The attack was triggered by the sacking of a colleague, according to a local newspaper report.

The seven Chinese "captives" were released after a rescue effort staged by the Chinese embassy and local police, the Chinese embassy in Yangon said in a statement.

Five people were arrested, the statement added. No casualties were reported, but the compound was still occupied by the striking workers, reported Xinhua.

The Chinese embassy made representations to Myanmar's Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Yangon regional government on Thursday night, the embassy's statement said.

It demanded that the Myanmar authorities take prompt and effective action to punish the perpetrators, and ensure the safety of Chinese nationals and the properties of the Chinese enterprise.

Myanmar authorities said they would protect the safety and interests of Chinese entrepreneurs in accordance with law, and promised to settle related issues as soon as possible, reported Xinhua.

Myanmar has traditionally been a close ally of China, but there are increasing signs of anti-China sentiment in the democratising country.

A wave of labour strikes have hit Chinese and South Korean factories over the past two years, with workers demanding pay rises and shorter working hours.

The factory attacked in Yangon was run by Hangzhou Hundred-Tex Garment (Myanmar) Co, which employs 500 local workers and 10 Chinese managers, South China Morning Post reported, citing the Myanmar Golden Phoenix newspaper.

The company is based in Zhejiang province in China and it set up a factory in Myanmar two years ago to take advantage of lower labour costs, the newspaper said.

A Chinese manager was quoted as saying that about 300 local workers rushed into the factory compound on Thursday morning and started to smash windows, doors and other equipment.

A worker sacked at the factory had called on employees to strike and then raid the factory, according to the Myanmar news report.